In the midst of much jubilation over beating the Milwaukee Brewers in a mid-week three-game series sweep, a question begs to be answered; just how much of a chance do the Cardinals have?
The answer, while obvious to most who’ve paid even a modicum of attention since June; as of now, seems like an insubstantial world of completely unfounded exuberance.
So, how much of a chance is that again?
Well, as of today the Cardinals are on pace to be an 86-win team. While the Brewers are on a 93-win pace. Every year Baseball Prospectus releases a daily annual report that calculates each teams chances of making the postseason, and a calculation of their “expected” win total for that year.
This chart, as of today, gives them a 1.5% chance. It is not looking good, is it?
I guess now would be a good time to apply the Chicago Cubs’ unofficial franchise slogan of, “Wail ’till next year!”. With that in mind, and little to look forward to for most Cardinals fans; except for Pujols chase for .300/30/100 for the eleventh straight year in succession. Or perhaps want get an extended look at Brandon Dickson? Watch Matt Holliday reach the twenty home run milestone for the sixth consecutive season or watch Lance Berkman’s pursuit of his first 100 RBI season since 2008. Or maybe you just love the simple joy of watching the games can provide? There is nothing left except watching the remaining 23 games all the while hoping; praying, that this team could make it. Or if you’re more of a pessimist; for this reason, I suppose you might already have a keen eye on the quickly approaching off-season. O.K., maybe it’s not as close as I make it seem, but you get the idea. Oh, by the way, ….Speaking of the off-season, it will probably one of the most intriguing off-seasons in recent memory; perhaps, in St. Louis Cardinals history. Well, one could suppose other events have been of greater magnitude than this, but I digress…. However, I do know this, the Cardinals off-season will revolve around one singular mesmerizing, gravitational force that all of Cardinal Nation can’t but help to succumb to such a fate. That force is none other than Albert Pujols; and his upcoming pending Free Agency. Let’s take a flashback somewhat, shall we? Let’s go back to February early to mid-February. A time when the contract negotiations of Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals were under the scrutiny of every microcosm in the known universe, or so it seemed. The two sides couldn’t come to a reasonable agreement with one another over the length and salary demands of Albert Pujols. Fast forward seven months later, and it looks apparent that the Cardinals probably have the most leverage in the possibility of procuring Albert’s services beyond 2011. Most of that leverage went to the Cardinals through Albert’s play this year. , who puts up numbers like this in a given year; .296 .369 .555 .924, including 34 home runs and 85 RBIs to date; is not worthy of the contract of his desires? Especially considering what he has done the past ten? The logic is pretty straightforward: 2011 has not been an atypical year concerning his offensive production. He BB% has taken a hit,( something Albert has alluded to himself as a reason for his struggles earlier) his career average is at 13.2% while currently he has a 10.1 BB%. His ISO is also down, too, .259, but still performing well against his counterparts. However, his BABIP has taken a hit(Currently .270; Career .311), as also has his OBP and his OPS, as well. Despite the potential for putting up great numbers yet again in 2011. Any slight discrepancy in his numbers will presumably raise a red flag to many teams interested in the soon-to-be thirty-two-year-old first basemen; therefore, will most likely tilt the leverage in the Cardinals favor; or at least one might think.
So, once the dust settles from the Albert Pujols conundrum, you’ll get a much better sense in which direction the Cardinals will head in 2012.
A lot of players will be off the books next year, and a lot of pertinent decisions will be contemplated.
Starting with: Albert Pujols(Who has already been discussed.
Chris Carpenter: He does have a Club Option worth 15 million, but I would suspect the Cardinals to buyout that option, and try to re-work a deal for the backside of Carpenter’s career.
A two to three-year deal around 15 to 20 million that is also heavily incentive laden wouldn’t be too surprising. Maybe a little more, but I wouldn’t suspect too much more than that.
Lance Berkman: By every indication, the possibility of Berkman returning to St. Louis seems to be all but an absolute formality. Another deal was similar to last year’s, but with a higher base salary. I would suspect somewhere between 10-12 million on a one or two-year deal. Alas, that is purely speculation, of course.
Rafael Furcal: I highly doubt St. Louis has any interest whatever in picking up Furcal’s $12 million dollar club option for 2012. He becomes an intriguing part of the equation. While offensively the numbers haven’t been great in his time in St. Louis(Although he has looked better the past eleven games: .300 .333 .550 .883; including three home runs and five driven in). There is little denying that he hasn’t helped improve the middle infield, where lack of defensive prowess in that area has crippled the team. Concerning Short Stoped on the open market, the pickings are slim indeed. With the most recognizable names being Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Hardy would may have probably been the best alternative of possible Free Agent; if you’re looking for an offensive upgrade; however, the O’s ended all possibility when they extended him for three more seasons at 7.5 million annually. It will be interesting which direction the Cardinals might follow with one less option to explore. Perhaps the trade market might be best, depending on who is available. That, however, remains to be seen.
Ryan Theriot: Ryan was brought in to replace another Ryan to, hopefully, make a more marked improvement offensively; that didn’t happen, at least not as much as the Cardinals had hoped for, especially how much it hurt the team defensively. I suspect the Cardinals in a different direction with Theriot, and have little faith in a return visit for next year. Overall his defensive short-comings couldn’t transcend over what would only be h slight improvement the Cardinals saw on offense. Overall, the trade was a wash.
Skip Schumaker: His defense has been bad enough that even improved offensive numbers can barely produce a WAR of 1.1 for him. It’s time to end this experiment, and go a new direction. However, I do like him as a versatile utility player, and could serve very well on an MLB bench. Certainly a player to at least consider keeping around. That said, the potential list of Free Agents doesn’t really offer that much appeal. I wouldn’t be too surprised if a trade might be worked out, or someone from the system might receive an opportunity. I could see an open competition next year for second base. With Schumaker, Descalso, Tyler Greene(Who has played well, and probably deserves one last shot, but at 28, time is running out), and maybe a ST look at Zach Cox, but I wouldn’t list him as anywhere close to being a front-runner at this point in time.
To the Bullpen:
You can’t look back on this season and not attribute some of the lack of success due to the failures of the bullpen this year. The bullpen, as a whole; without divulging into the some of the painful numbers they have produced, has been very mediocre throughout most of the season. Especially in the earlier part of the seasons. However, the acquisitions of guys like Dotel and “Scrabble” (See: Rzepczynski, Marc) have solidified the bullpen, and would be very content with the bullpen, but a few pick-ups to further bolster one of their biggest weaknesses of 2011 would certainly increase confidence. Certainly some intriguing names out there, such as Heath Bell, and Johnathon Broxton, to name a few, but don’t look for any type of acquisition like this to become a reality, by any means. Expect more of an acquisition in the form of a well-traveled veteran or two.
A lot of questions to be answered, and a lot depends on the decisions of Albert Pujols. This off-season will more than likely be thedefining moment in John Mozeliak’s tenure as General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. A lot of people want to judge a G.M.s’ abilities on how what moves worked, and which didn’t. This off-season will most definitely be the best barometer you’ll ever get to gauge him from, undoubtedly. The question is, will he pass the grade? As always, time will reveal the answers. As will be revealed John Mozeliak’s mettle.